Weekly salon 21/10

The Wentworth by-election is still a thing, but interesting and perhaps important things happen elsewhere.

1. Spain lost all its men in an ancient invasion

The time was about 4500 years ago. Spain was invaded from the east by a group that stemmed from the Yamnaya herders on the steppes north of the Black Sea, the group responsible for founding the Indo-European language group. A genetic study led by David Reich of Harvard Medical School has found that the local male line disappeared instantly with that invasion (New Scientist, pay-walled), never to be seen again. After the invasion the resulting population had 40 per cent Yamnaya ancestry and 60 per cent local ancestry. However, the Y-chromosome of the male line changed completely to the Yamnaya line.

It means the local males were either killed or enslaved, according to the article. I would suggest that if enslaved the males were probably castrated. In any case the article says:

    This could only have happened if society had come firmly under the control of the [invading] males, with females being treated as second-class citizens or even property…

In Britain the people who made Stonehenge fared even worse, but the process was different. Over several hundred years 90% of the local gene pool was replaced by steppe-related DNA.

Both stories are very different from the theory put forward by David Anthony (see Deep origins: language and Deep origins: patriarchy). He suggests that the expanding Yamnaya took over at the top, as it were, in a patron-host relationship, leaving existing peoples in situ.

New ancient genomes are turning up about once a week on average, so watch this space.

2. The theory of everything

Everyone knows that the answer to life the universe and everything is supposed to be 42. Seriously, though, there are at least 19 numerical constants without which the ‘standard model of the universe’ would not work – for example, the speed of light, the Planck constant, the Hubble constant, the mass of the Higgs boson and the gravitational constant.

New Scientist again has an article There’s a glitch at the edge of the universe that could remake physics which tells us that there is one number that was thought to be constant, but perhaps isn’t. That is alpha, or the ‘fine structure constant’ which has to do with the strength of the interactions between light and matter. The number is 0.00729735, near enough to 1/137. It’s important:

    Change this number by a smidgen, and you change the universe. Increase it too much, and protons repel each other so strongly that small atomic nuclei can’t hold together. Go a bit further and nuclear fusion factories within stars grind to a halt and can no longer produce carbon, the element on which life is based. Make alpha much smaller, and molecular bonds fall apart at lower temperatures, altering many processes essential to life.

Now as far back as 1998 physicist John Webb and colleagues at the University of New South Wales observed that:

    between 12 and 6 billion years ago, alpha had increased by an average of six parts in a million. It wasn’t enough to significantly affect physics at that time. But it was a change.

Since then it has been a yo-yo of allegations of error and refutation of allegations.

    Webb and a changing group of collaborators would publish a fresh analysis showing a variation using new or different data, and some other group would refute the result. Each time, Webb’s team refuted the refutations, while working to find sources of systematic error for themselves. In the meantime, they also gained access to data from another telescope, the Very Large Telescope (VLT) high in the Chilean Andes.

Their latest claim about alpha is that it changes gradually and approximately linearly with distance from Earth.

Michael Murphy of Swinburne University, who knows the field better than most, did his PhD under Webb, thinks the whole thing will go away with better measurements. Maybe so, maybe not.

I’d like to think of the universe as a temporary effusion in some bigger soup, which after a mere 30 billion years or so, will just fold back into where it came from as though nothing happened.

3. Fukuyama on what Karl Marx got right, the rivals to liberal democracy and why he fears a US-China war

Francis Fukuyama has written a new book, Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment and talks with George Eaton, political editor of the New Statesman.

He says we should institute “redistributive programmes that try to redress this big imbalance in both incomes and wealth that has emerged”.

He also said that a certain set of ideas held by Reagan and Thatcher about the benefits of unregulated markets took hold, and in many ways it’s had a disastrous effect.

He says:

    In terms of the role of finance, if there’s anything we learned from the financial crisis it’s that you’ve got to regulate the sector like hell because they’ll make everyone else pay. That whole ideology became very deeply embedded within the Eurozone, the austerity that Germany imposed on southern Europe has been disastrous.


    “At this juncture, it seems to me that certain things Karl Marx said are turning out to be true. He talked about the crisis of overproduction… that workers would be impoverished and there would be insufficient demand.” Yet the only plausible systemic rival to liberal democracy, Fukuyama said, was not socialism but China’s state capitalist model.

He says

    The Chinese are arguing openly that it is a superior one because they can guarantee stability and economic growth over the long run in a way that democracy can’t…

    And if they are still doing better than the US in 30 years time, they have a real argument, says Fukuyama.

    In case you thought otherwise, he reckons that he hasn’t changed his mind, there is continuity in his thought, and if you missed it you haven’t being paying attention.

    4. What Is Wrong With The Nordic Model?

    Michael Cottakis at at Social Democracy asks the question. He’s trying to understand why the Nordic countries have also been infected with anti-immigration identity politics of the far right.

    Looking at Sweden, the answer is pretty simple. It’s not the ‘Nordic model’ or the EU. Quite simply they have been taking in more refugees than they have been able to integrate.

    The Swedish economy is now highly service oriented, and required well-qualified workers. Refugees are not making the grade, and the low paid jobs for the unskilled simply don’t exist.

    Cottakis’ solution is to enhance education facilities and look at employment practices, which over-emphasise qualifications, rather than cut down on refugees.

    In 2015 Sweden took in 160,000 refugees, with a population of around 10 million. I worked the numbers and came out with the equivalent in Germany of 1.3 million, and in Australia 395,000. How would we fare with Sweden’s level of refugee intake?

    5. The strange demise and disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi

    At time of writing here are the latest three reports:

    The latest from the Saudis is that Khashoggi was accidentally choked when they tried to stop him yelling out, then the team involved panicked and organised a cover-up.

    There is some story about a 15-member team from the intelligence and security forces to going to Istanbul to meet Khashoggi at the consulate and try to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia.


      Eighteen nationals have reportedly been arrested in connection with the suspected murder, and five of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s top aides — including intelligence official Ahmad al-Assiri and royal court media adviser Saud al-Qahtani — have been sacked.

    It looks to me that the Turks had the place bugged, but didn’t want to say so. I’d reckon they and the Americans, and the Saudis, know perfectly well what happened. It’s whether firstly, whether the Saudis can come up with a plausible story that will allow Trump to keep the US relationship with the Saudis on the rails, which he would clearly prefer, and secondly what the Turks choose to tell the world.

23 thoughts on “Weekly salon 21/10”

  1. On the old blog, we used to say
    on a post.

    On the Khashoggi matter, perhaps the consulate building wasn’t bugged?

    Very early, there was a claim that Mr Khashoggi was wearing an Apple watch (whatever that might be) which was transmitting audio to his fiancee, as she waited outside.

    Now of course that might be a cover story attempting to conceal consulate-bugging, or it might be true (and a possible source of the “murder tape” alleged to exist).

    This morning on RN a US Senator said “You don’t bring a bone saw to a fist fight!”

    Fair point.

  2. SBS (I think) reported that Mr Khashoggi’s fiancee waited outside the consulate overnight. I doubt she would have if she had heard his murder.

  3. Apparently Jamal Khashoggi was the nephew of the notorious world wide highly respected and successful arms dealer, Adnan Khashoggi.

  4. There is never insufficient demand, Marx and Fukuyama are silly in a way only an academic intellectual can be.

    China will crash and burn relatively soon, the shock waves from that will be globally devastating and can now be blamed on Capitalism it seems, just like hes doing with the US housing crash which was set in motion by government interference.

  5. Fukuyama

    “The Chinese are arguing openly that it is a superior one because they can guarantee stability and economic growth over the long run in a way that democracy can’t… if in another 30 years, they’re bigger than the US, Chinese people are richer and the country is still holding together, I would say they’ve got a real argument.”

    Yes, and my Aunty may argues she’s a man… if in another 30 years she grows testicles, develops a Y chromosome and still holds it together she’ll have a real argument

  6. The trick is to have a flexible system that can respond to the changing nature of the world. The flexibility to recognize the need for change and different ways of doing things.
    The flexibility to be thinking about alternatives long before the crisis hits.
    I used to talk about wandering around collecting items for a bucket of solutions and a bucket of problems. Every so often i would find a match that would solve a problem or highlight a new possibility. Waiting for crisis before looking for solutions is a mugs game.
    Also remember reading about a company with a history of achievement that did a reorganization every so often even if the need was not obvious. China with its new leader for life should take notice of this idea.

  7. China will crash and burn relatively soon,

    What time scale is “relatively soon”?
    Ten years? Two years? 50 years?

  8. zoot, from memory Mr Khashoggi’s fiancee waited 11 hours.

    Ambi, the US senator is right “You don’t bring a bone saw to a fist fight!”

    You also don’t need 15 men to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia.

  9. Did the Yanmaya arrive with wives or arrive to get wives?

    John, I read somewhere that it was customary for Yanmaya young men to go off and fight for some years, then return home and settle down.

    Maybe they liked the Iberian Peninsula and decided to stay, so replaced the local men.

    That seems to be the logical conclusion. But definitely did not bring women with them, from the article.

  10. Saudis now admit they intended to murder Khashoggi, but say it was rogue elements.

    I reckon the Turks had the place bugged but don’t want to say so.

  11. The old men could have been hogging the women and the young ones simply shot through and kept going till they hit the sea.

    Good guess, I think John.

  12. Look, while we’re talking about the legal proceedings St Julian of Assange is undertaking in Ecuador, here is a Friday afternoon court story for everyone.

    From Fairfax online:

    Quito: The first hearing in Julian Assange’s lawsuit against Ecuador’s Foreign Affairs Ministry was suspended as the WikiLeaks founder was unable to understand his translator, and the judge called for a replacement fluent in “Australian.”

    Speaking from Ecuador’s Embassy in London via Skype, Assange said the court-appointed translation service was “not good enough.” Judge Karina Martinez said that it was indispensable that Assange testify, and said the court had erred by appointing a translator who only spoke English, apparently under the impression that Australian dialect is unintelligible to other anglophones.

    Q: what exactly is an ‘anglophone’, a pommy telephone?
    A White Telephone?

    Mr Jumpy: Is it OK To Be A White Telephone?

  13. Fake News! – actually an opinion piece – from the failing left wing Forbes magazine.
    It seems to me that just as the seventies were the era of left wing terrorism (Red Brigade, Bader Meinhof etc), the new century has brought us predominantly right wing terrorism, skillfully aided and abetted by politicians like #45 – a factor that was absent back then.

  14. Mr Essig must also blame Bernie Sanders for the Congressional Baseball shootings if he’s consistent in his reasoning.

    I think there are too many unknowns yet to form a conclusion about Sayoc, other than he may be the most incompetent terrorist America has ever seen. It’s almost like he wanted to get caught and not hurt anyone.

  15. Mr Essig must also blame Bernie Sanders for the Congressional Baseball shootings if he’s consistent in his reasoning.

    For that to hold you’ll have to demonstrate where Sanders has
    1 – identified opponents as enemies, and
    2 – motivated hatred toward them, and
    3 – sanctioned violence against them.
    Two or three examples should suffice.

    Or did you not read the Forbes article?

  16. Zoot, is your google and YouTube broken now ?
    Seek and you shall find.

    Interesting you took one sentence and missed the main point of the comment, being, it’s too early to make a conclusion as facts are still being gathered.

    But hey, keep being you dude.

  17. My original comment (at 11:30 am) to which you responded with an epic logic fail, made no reference to pipe bombs or synagogue shootings.
    My Google is functional and it shows no evidence supporting your thesis that
    according to Essig’s logic Bernie Sanders should be blamed for the Congressional Baseball shooting.
    Now you’re trying to change the subject (quelle surprise!)

    If you really want to have an intellectual fist fight I should warn you I’m carrying a bone saw. 🙂

  18. Lol,
    FFS you introduced the “ MAGAbomber “ in your link zoot and why go to the trouble of linking to it ?
    You introduced the ( shitty) pipe bomber and no one but you mentioned a synagogue just then.

    I’m not interested in an intellectual fist fight and I don’t know how that helps.
    Seeing as your “ bone saw “ consists of lies, hypocrisy, blog tactic, Alinskyism and fooling yourself, then have fun with your “ bone saw “.

    Anyone but the most blinkered lefty tribalist can see how disingenuous you are being.
    It’s time for honesty.

  19. So, not having any evidence to support his lie that Bernie Sanders has exhibited the same behaviour as Trump, Jumpy tries to evade the question with bluster and abuse.

    Par for the course really.

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